The Semantics of Statebuilding and Nationbuilding: Looking Beyond Neo-Weberian Approaches

Nicolas Lemay-Hebert

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

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A narrow form of institutionalism, focusing on institutional reconstruction and the capabilities of the state to secure its grip on society, has prevailed in the statebuilding literature since the 1990s. If it is possible to identify a distinctive Weberian influence in the contemporary statebuilding literature, notably through an overwhelming focus on security and securitisation as the basis of state consolidation, and an implicit definition of legitimacy as belief in legitimacy, privileging top-down processes of justification of support for the central authority, it is also true that Weber’s influence in social sciences has been somewhat distorted in the process of knowledge production. Many social scientists have reduced Weber’s explanation of beliefs to the process of internalisation of these beliefs, oversimplifying state–society relationships and state formation processes. While demonstrating the limits of these approaches to state and statebuilding, this chapter also echoes the need to break the tacit neo-Weberian monopoly on state and statebuilding by suggesting a ‘social legitimacy approach’, loosely based on Durkheimian sociology.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSemantics of Statebuilding: Language, Meanings and Sovereignty
EditorsNicolas Lemay-Hebert, Nicholas Onuf, Vojin Rakic, Petar Bojanic
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies in Intervention and Statebuilding
PublisherDavid Chandler


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